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Lenovo Smart Assistant

2017.01.03 10:56 PT

Lenovo Smart Assistant - Harmon Kardon

The Lenovo Smart Assistant resembles Amazon’s Echo in more than looks: it’s a tall cylindrical shaped bluetooth speaker, and is powered by Amazon’s very own Alexa. The Smart Assistant is skinnier and taller than the Echo. Lenovo priced the Smart Assistant at US$129, which is $50 lower than the $179 Amazon Echo. Lenovo also softened up the bottom a bit with textile-like visual appearance that comes in soft gray, green, and orange (more like salmon). The Smart Assistant will fit more snugly into home interiors.

The top half is all business with eight 360-degree far-field microphone with acoustic echo cancellation and noise suppression. The Smart Assistant can hear you summon it from 16 feet away. The speaker combines a 5-watt tweeter and a 10-watt woofer. But Lenovo’s offering a special version with Harmon Kardon premium audio for $50 more, in all black.

The top outer ring rotates, which is how you control the volume. And from initial reports on the net the Smart Assistant can pump out enough decibels for everyone in the room to hear, unless you live in an absurdly large mansion in which case you’ll have a real human assistant at your beck and call.

Is the Lenovo Smart Assistant going to make my life better? My life is stuffed with complications; that’s why I look for high-quality dependable devices that combine important functions. Combining a portable bluetooth speaker and digital assistant seems like a good idea, especially if you don’t have to take out your smartphone.

But do you really need one? If so, is the Lenovo Smart Assistant of high quality? Let’s tackle the first question. If you already have a modern smartphone you most likely already have a digital assistant. Have an iPhone? Go to Settings –> Siri –> Allow “Hey Siri”. Just make sure your iPhone is plugged in, a requirement Apple should get rid of. And if you’re on Android, it’s a bit more complicated but you can go to Settings –> Language and Input –> Voice Input –> Enhanced Google Services (enable and then click on the settings button to the right) –> “OK Google” Detection –> and then enable “From Google Search App”, “From Any Screen”, and “When Locked”. There, you have your own Alexa-like digital assistant right in the palm of your hand. Say “Hey Siri” or “OK Google” and ask away.

The second question. I like — no need — high-quality products. I do my research and get the highest quality product I can afford, or if there is something so much better but I can’t afford it I’ll save up for it for as long as I need to. That high-quality thing whatever it is will last a long time and will be out of the growing landfills.

I also don’t like shopping; if I had it my way I would shop for something once in my life. Take socks for instance. During the summer I wear Darn Tough socks, which come with a lifetime warranty. If these socks tear I just send them in and they’ll fix them or replace them. I don’t shop for summer socks anymore. Same goes for my backpack. I know it’s a lot tougher with high-tech gadgets, but I’m back to using my 2009 17-inch MacBook Pro as my daily go-to computer. I’ll just need to do a bit of upgrading (RAM and SSD). So is the Lenovo Smart Assistant high quality?

While I was watching some videos online I took a close look at that chrome-like outer ring on the Smart Assistant and noticed some rough spots. The chrome layer doesn’t look like a thick layer, but a thin layer covering cheap plastic. I’m fairly sure that ring isn’t going to feel anything like the ring on the Nest Thermostat. (The special Harmon Kardon edition might have better materials, and the sound should be better.) That’s just one little thing, but I think it’s the little things that count. If you can’t get the little things right then what does that tell you about the whole thing?

The Lenovo Smart Assistant at $129 looks like a bargain at first glance, but take a good look at the materials, how they feel. How does it sound? How well does it work? I recommend sticking to the digital assistant already on your smartphone. But if you really want a standalone digital assistant check out the special Harmon Kardon edition or the original: Amazon’s Echo.

Sources: Engadget, c|net, Ars Technica